Long-Distance Caregivers: Three Ways to Ruin the Holidays with Your Aging Parents
And, what to do instead…
1. Try to get as much done as possible in the short time you have. Schedule the year’s appointments and ensure that everything gets done. Why is this so bad? It often may feel necessary, especially if no one in the family lives nearby. There may be many tasks to handle, but this is the fastest way to alienate and overwhelm your aging parents. A lot of what you do on your visit may end up undone if you have “rushing in syndrome”. This leaves little time for meaningful conversations around any of the concerns you might have and too little precious time to enjoy the holidays. You may be used to rushing around and getting things accomplished, but you can exhaust an elderly loved one who is not very active.
So, what can you do instead? Either plan a longer visit or other visits, if at all possible. Try to handle some issues via phone before/after your visit if a longer visit is not feasible. Can you break up duties between family members or even hire someone to help with certain things? We often hear, “you allowed me to be a daughter again” from our Aging Wisely clients. Family time is precious and sometimes having someone else to handle tasks and care coordination can permit the family to enjoy what might be limited time together again. Consider setting aside holiday time primarily for that, while using other time for tasks and concerns.
2. Sit your aging parents down for a serious conversation to tell them that they should move to assisted living (or sell their home to come live with you, etc.).
We always encourage conversations and openness about important issues in the family, so why do we go against that here? Well, the holidays frankly just aren’t the time to do it if you can avoid it. This is especially true if this is the first time you are broaching these issues. Either plan to stick around longer and have these conversations after you’ve spent some time together or save it for another time. Even better, approach these topics early and often. If you’re having difficulty, call our Senior Care Consultant and we can help you with ideas or set you up with a care manager who can help with a caring, dignified approach. Unless things have become dangerous for your aging parents, it makes sense to approach concerns gradually and start from the elder’s perspective. There might be issues that they are worried about too, and they may be willing to start with getting help in the home or making small steps.
3. Tell your local sister/brother all the problems you see and your helpful ideas about what needs to change. When you come in to town as the long-distance caregiver, telling the local family member all the bad things you see implies they’ve been doing everything wrong and devalues their day-to-day struggles. When you aren’t there every day, you probably don’t have a good understanding of everything that goes on so you may jump to unfair conclusions. This can cause a lot of resentment, even in the best relationships.
Take time to observe and think about things before speaking out. If you see concerns or have ideas, make some notes and plan a time to talk about it later. Ask your local sibling some questions and express concern about how he/she is doing and how you can help. Don’t forget that your aging parents may “pull themselves together” to rally for your visit, or if you have not been there in a while things may seem drastically changed for the worse. You have a different view than the person who is there daily.
Want to have a better holiday together this year? Let us help! We offer abundant resources to assist you as a long-distance caregiver of aging parents. Our care management team can help you coordinate long-distance care and maintain strong family relationships. Our EasyLiving team can help take care of tasks and day-to-day needs, giving you peace of mind.
Give yourself the gift of peace of mind and your family the gift of aging well and wisely! Call us at 727-447-5845 to discuss your options.